Community-Based Participatory Research Principles

Revised and Adopted by the Detroit URC Board on January 20, 2011

Community-based participatory research (CBPR) is a partnership approach to research that equitably involves, for example, community members, organizational representatives, and researchers in all aspects of the research process and in which all partners contribute expertise and share decision making and ownership.* The core principles of CBPR, as developed and adopted by the URC Board, along with a more detailed explanation for each principle, are listed below.

1. CBPR promotes collaborative and equitable partnerships in all research phases and involves an empowering and power-sharing process. CBPR projects are conducted according to the norms of partnership, including: mutual respect; recognition of the knowledge, expertise, and resource capacities of the participants in the process; and open communication. In CBPR, to the extent desired, all parties participate in and share control over all phases of the research process, including problem definition, data collection, interpretation of results, and application of the results to address community concerns. Researchers involved in CBPR recognize the inequalities that exist between themselves and community participants, and therefore pay explicit attention to the expertise of community partners, and the need to create an empowering process through sharing information, decision-making power, and resources among members of the partnership.

2. CBPR recognizes community as a unit of identity. This involves a sense of emotional connection and identification with others, shared norms and values, common language and customs, similar goals and interests, and a desire to meet shared needs.  Communities of identity may be either a defined geographic area (e.g., neighborhood) or a geographically dispersed group with a common sense of identity (e.g., ethnic group, age group, sexual orientation).  A city or other geographic area may include a number of different communities of identity, or may be an aggregate of individuals who do not have a common sense of identity.  CBPR partnerships seek to work with existing communities of identity, and/or to enhance a sense of community through the collaborative process.  There also may be situations where communities of identity may benefit from involving individuals and groups from outside the community of identity who bring additional needed skills and resources. 

3. CBPR builds on strengths and resources within the community. Such strengths and resources include: the skills and assets of individuals and families, the caring and helpful networks of social relationships, and the mediating structures such as faith-based organizations and community-based organizations, that enable community members to work together to improve health and quality of life.

4. CBPR facilitates co-learning and capacity building among all partners. CBPR facilitates the reciprocal transfer of knowledge, skills, and capacity. For example, researchers learn from community members’ local knowledge about their community’s history, culture and broader social context, as well as from their administrative and management skills.  Similarly, community members learn further skills in areas such as, how to conduct research and grant proposal preparation.

5. CBPR for health focuses on problems of relevance to the local community using an ecological approach that attends to multiple determinants of health and disease. An ecological approach involves individuals, the immediate context in which they live (e.g., family, social network), and the broader context in which they are embedded (e.g., community, society).  Accordingly, this ecological approach attends to the multiple determinants of disease and well-being, for example, biomedical, social, economic, cultural and physical environmental factors.

6. CBPR balances research and action for the mutual benefit of all partners. CBPR seeks to build a body of knowledge about health and well-being while also applying and balancing the knowledge generated with community and social change efforts. CBPR partnerships may agree that all research efforts do not have to involve an intervention component, but they commit to the translation of research findings to intervention and policy change strategies that will address the concerns of the community.

7. CBPR disseminates findings and knowledge gained to the broader community and involves all partners in the dissemination process. CBPR projects produce, interpret and disseminate findings to community members in clear language respectful to the community and in ways which will be useful for developing action plans that will benefit the community. This dissemination of findings is provided on an ongoing basis, using multiple strategies, and the results are used to guide the development of interventions and policy change. The dissemination of findings extends beyond the partnership itself, and involves all partners as reviewers and co-authors of publications, and co-presenters at conferences and workshops.

8. CBPR promotes a long-term process and commitment to sustainability. CBPR emphasizes the establishment of relationships and commitments that extend beyond a single research project or funding period. CBPR is conducted in a way that strengthens on-going collaboration among community-based organizations, public health agencies, health care organizations, and educational institutions.

9. CBPR addresses issues of race, ethnicity, racism, and social class and embraces cultural humility.

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